New European health advisory panel raises pharma hopes of better times - APM Health Europe
KEYWORDS : COST EFFECTIVENESS EUROPEAN COMMISSION FINANCING
New European health advisory panel raises pharma hopes of better times
by Peter O'Donnell
BRUSSELS, May 25 (APM) - The creation of a panel of advisers on investing in health
has raised some hopes within the European pharmaceutical industry that the downward
pressure on healthcare spending may be eased, and that decisions may take more
account of the value of effective health interventions.
The European Commission's director general for health, Paola Testori Coggi, has
appointed twelve people to what she describes as "an independent expert panel that will
provide the European Commission with advice on identifying effective ways of investing
in health and creating modern, responsive and sustainable health systems".
"In today's economic climate, when some national governments feel forced to cut their
health budgets, we must come up with common solutions for improving the costeffectiveness
and sustainability of health systems", said Testori Coggi in a statement
announcing her appointments.
She said the commission: "Has pledged to support cooperation between EU countries on
health systems and to provide information and knowledge on efficient ways of investing
The panel is to provide advice "in fields such as health planning, budget prioritisation,
health services research, hospital and healthcare management, healthcare provision
and health education and promotion", she added.
The commission will circulate advice from the panel to member states, although it will
remain informal and non-binding.
Richard Bergström, director general of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical
Industries and Associations, told APM: "It is good that SANCO (the commission's health
department, run by Testori Coggi) finally equips itself with advisers that can stand up to
its austerity-obsessed colleagues in DG ECFIN (the commission's economic and financial
"I hope reforms and investments will build high-performing health care systems that focus
on outcomes and value for money, as opposed to only cost-cutting," he added.
EuropaBio, the European biotech industry association, congratulated the commission
"on its push to advancing the agenda of more effective investments in health" with its
"highly qualified panel".
Nathalie Moll, EuropaBio secretary general, told APM: "We look forward to cooperating
with the expert panel in order to provide the biotechnology industry's input and support
to the initiative".
She said the biotech industry "continues to be fundamentally committed to working
towards identifying innovative and cost-effective healthcare biotechnology solutions
which can provide the most sustainable solutions in terms of targeting patients' needs as
well as addressing the needs of healthcare systems".
According to a "list of evaluated applicants" provided by SANCO to APM, the advisors
are Pedro Barros Pedro, professor of economics at the Nova School of Business and
Economics at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa; Margaret Barry, professor & chair of
health promotion and public health at the National University of Ireland in Galway; Helmut
Brand, Jean Monnet professor of European public health and director of the research
programme on comparative health at Maastricht University; Werner Brouwer, professor
of health economics at Erasmus University Rotterda; Jan Maria De Maeseneer, professor
of of family medicine and primary health care at Ghent University; Bengt Göran Jönsson,
professor emeritus in health economics, Sweden; Fernando Lamata, a human resources
official in the Madrid health authority; Lasse Antero Lehtonen, professor and chief
physician at Helsinki University Central Hospital; Dorjan Marušic, cardiologist and
consultant to the Slovenian Health Insurance Institute; Martin McKee, professor of
European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine;
Gualtiero Walter Ricciardi, professor of hygiene and public health at the Università
Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome; Sarah Thomson, deputy director of health, London
School of Economics and Political Science.
Bengt Jönsson has been described as "the founding father of health economics in
Europe", and is an advisor to many governments. Martin McKee has recently written
critically in The Lancet of the impact of austerity on health.
EUROPEAN SPENDING GUIDELINES
The debate in Europe over healthcare spending is taking place against the background
that includes the so-called European semester - a new European Union policy area
which gives the EU a much greater say than ever before in how national governments
make major spending decisions.
Part of the European semester exercise is the issue by the European Commission of
'country specific recommendations', which offer guidance on public spending that now
includes healthcare spending.
Another element being explored is how far spending under the EU's structural finance for
regional and cohesion funding (which accounts for close to a third of total EU spending)
could play into healthcare investment.
Bergström told APM: "The country specific recommendations, as part of the European
semester, as well as the roll-out of the structural/cohesion funds, present an opportunity
for rational investments."